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Board Adopts Operating Budget for FY 2008

February 13, 2007
Board Adopts $1.988 Billion FY 2008 Operating Budget

Final Budget Includes $4.2 million in Amendments for ESOL Student Growth, Special Education Changes, Graduation Ceremonies, and Student Activity Buses

The Board of Education adopted a $1.988 billion Fiscal Year 2008 operating budget Tuesday to continue its reform efforts that have produced unprecedented academic achievement for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students.

The FY 2008 operating budget builds on seven years of steady academic progress and positions the school district to help all students achieve even greater success with key investments in staff and proven programs.

The final budget includes an increase of $136 million over the FY 2007 budget, a 7.4 percent increase, and funds a new salary agreement with the three employee associations. It also includes numerous targeted investments to continue efforts to reform and improve middle school, strengthen special education, improve high schools, add more counselors, expand the Poolesville High School whole-school magnet program, and increase foreign language translation services.

“One of the biggest reasons for our success is our people – the great staff members who have dedicated their lives to helping each and every student succeed,” said Nancy Navarro, Board of Education president. “This budget invests in our people and provides the resources we need to continue our efforts to close the achievement gap.”

Previous investments in student success have produced record results:

-The Class of 2006 set numerous historic highs in participation and performance in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The Class of 2006 broke the previous AP record set by the Class of 2005, with 56 percent of the class taking at least one AP exam and 45 percent scoring well enough to earn college credit.

-Performance of the Class of 2006 was three times higher than the national average for 2006 graduates and twice as high as the average for graduating seniors in Maryland.

-Newsweek magazine once again ranked all 23 eligible high schools in the top 3 percent in the nation, including 5 in the top 100.

-88 percent of kindergartners are reading simple text, and there is no achievement gap between White students and their African American and Hispanic peers.

-46 percent of fifth graders are taking sixth grade math, compared to 2 percent six years ago.

“With the guidance of the Board of Education, we have invested the public’s resources wisely over the last seven years and achieved exceptional results,” said Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “There’s no question that when you have high expectations for students and staff coupled with the right resources, you can indeed achieve great things.”

The FY 2008 budget is the result of a close collaborative process between MCPS, its employee associations and its parents. Throughout the process, MCPS sought and received a great deal of feedback, which helped shape the initiatives included in the budget.

The FY 2008 budget devotes 80 cents of every dollar to instructional programs. Central administrative costs remain among the lowest in the state for any school district at 2 percent.

MCPS and its employee associations have reached a three-year agreement on salary increases. Employees will receive a salary increase of 4.8 percent in FY 2008, 5 percent in FY 2009 and 5.3 percent in FY 2010. The cost of the FY 2008 increase totals $69.9 million.

The FY 2008 budget includes a $2.6 million investment in middle school reform – the first installment of a three-year, $10 million plan. Five schools will be included in the first phase of middle school reform, which focuses on enhancing staff skills, providing an accelerated curriculum with an emphasis on math and reading skills, and improving the leadership structure of middle school. The budget also includes $1.2 million for 16.5 new middle school counselors.

Additional investments will be targeted to:

-Increase supports in high schools to support High School Assessment proficiency.
-Expand online courses for high school students.
-Expand Poolesville High School magnet program.
-Add 15 elementary assistant principals.
-Add 14 elementary instructional data assistants.
-Add staff for elementary art, music, and PE classes.
-Provide more team leaders in elementary school.
-Develop a pilot program to help ESOL high school students with interrupted education.
-Increase translation services to families with limited English skills.
-Provide training and tools for support professionals.

Special Education

In special education, the budget will fund the implementation of a new staffing model that apportions staff to schools based on the intensity of services students receive. This model, called hours-based staffing, will expand from two to 12 middle schools this year and is expected to increase student performance. In addition, the budget includes a five-point special education reform plan that is designed to improve the academic performance of students with disabilities, increase the number of students with disabilities educated in the least restrictive environment, and address the overrepresentation of African American and Hispanic students in secondary learning centers. Ultimately, the plan will result in the closure of the secondary learning centers where student performance has lagged behind the performance of students with disabilities who are not educated in these centers.

Specifically, the special education reform plan includes the following five key elements:

All Grade 6-12 students currently attending the secondary learning centers may remain in these centers through their graduation.

Approximately 45 Grade 5 students who might be candidates for the secondary learning centers will receive special education services in their home or consortia schools, according to their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). The progress of these students will be monitored carefully to ensure that they are progressing in accordance with their IEPs.

All of the students currently in secondary learning centers will have the option of returning to their home or consortia schools to receive their services if their families request it through the IEP process, and students who wish to exercise this option will be supported. Any determination or change in service would be made through the IEP process.

Additional efforts will be made to improve the quality of instruction at the secondary learning centers for the students who remain through their high school graduation.

Principals and staff will receive additional professional development to better help support students with disabilities in their home and consortia schools. The focus of training will be on effective modes of co-teaching; collaboration practices; use of technology to access the curriculum; providing accommodations and modifications for English, reading, and mathematics; research–based reading and math interventions; behavior management strategies; and the effective use of paraeducators to support students with disabilities.

Superintendent Weast added $1.8 million to his recommended budget to fund the continuation of the learning centers and the mandatory professional development for staff to ensure that they are prepared to serve the students who will be transitioning to their home or consortia school.

Other Budget Amendments

Superintendent Weast added four other amendments to the budget adopted by the Board today:

To pay for unexpected growth in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, Superintendent Weast added $1.7 million to his recommended budget. An additional 1,100 students enrolled in the elementary and middle school levels create the need for 27.3 more teachers in FY 2008.

MCPS will now provide funding to all high schools to pay for the majority of the costs associated with renting venues for the Class of 2008 commencement ceremonies. The budget amendment includes $196,350 to pay for facility costs at the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland for up to four schools and DAR Constitution Hall for other schools.

Another amendment provides $200,000 in additional funding for activity buses for an extended-day program at Poolesville High School and for assistance to schools implementing the High School Plus (formerly evening high school) program. The funds will enable Poolesville to offer an eighth class period like the Montgomery Blair High School magnet program. In addition, the bus funds are needed to ensure that students who participate in the High School Plus program are not discouraged from attending due to transportation concerns.

The budget includes $150,000 in research funds to work with the County Council and the county executive’s staff on an initiative in the John F. Kennedy cluster to improve the achievement of African American students.

The budget also includes funding for junior varsity lacrosse and additional middle school extracurricular activities by increasing the student parking fee and the student activity fee.

Finally, a Program and Fiscal Assistant position will be added to the Board of Education Office at a cost of $106,097 (including benefits), partially offset by a $35,000 reduction in contractual funds.

The FY 2008 budget also includes a $16.1 million contribution to a retiree health trust fund mandated by new accounting rules. Excluding this required contribution, the entire budget increase only totals 6.5 percent.

MCPS is receiving an additional $3.5 million in mandated state funding because of significant changes in projected state revenue. However, this additional funding is offset by the loss of $22 million in anticipated state funding for the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) that was due to Montgomery County. Gov. Martin O’Malley has expressed his support for GCEI funding, but did not include funding for it in his budget. Several bills have been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to restore this funding. Without the GCEI funding, local taxpayers will have to absorb these costs.

The Board’s FY 2008 operating budget will now be sent to County Executive Isiah Leggett. County Executive Leggett will present his budget to the County Council in mid-March. The Council will hold public hearings and work sessions on the budget in the spring and will adopt its final budget in mid-May.

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